Sunday, February 5, 2017

Breast cancer blood test may predict survival

cMethDNA test
Photo courtesy Johns Hopkins
Kimmel Cancer Center
CANCER DIGEST – Feb. 5, 2017 – A blood test that spots cancer-linked DNA in women with advanced breast cancer correctly predicted that most of those patients with higher levels of the tumor markers died significantly earlier than those with lower levels.

The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center scientists, who developed the test and led the study, say the results, if confirmed in more studies, suggest that the DNA detector, called cMethDNA, could be widely used to identify breast cancers at higher risk for recurrence and track the success or failure of treatment. Results of the study were published online Nov. 21, 2016 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The test searches for evidence of so-called hypermethylation, a type of chemical tag affixed to DNA in one or more of six breast cancer-specific genes. Its appearance in the DNA code of breast cancer-related genes shed into the blood may indicate that a patient’s cancer growth is increasing and the disease has worsened.

The study showed that in 129 patients, median overall survival for 62 patients identified with high levels of cancer DNA in their blood was 12.3 months, compared with 21.7 months for 67 patients with low levels.

"There’s a great need in cancer patients to be able to quickly and easily assess if a particular treatment is working in order to switch to another if it’s not, thus avoiding wasted time, potential side effects and cost,” Kala Visvanathan, M.D., M.H.S., professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in a press release, “Our study results, although preliminary, suggest that cMethDNA has the potential to be an effective way to do this for breast cancer patients.”

The research team estimates that verification and use of the new hypermethylation test is years away, and the cMethDNA assay is not yet available for general use.

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